Friday, December 01, 2006

The Reality of the End of the Semester

Today one of my students (a first-semester freshman) cried in my office. I handed back an exam today; her score brought her average down from a B+ to a solid B, and she was upset. We worked through the problems that she missed, and she insisted that my solution was what she meant to do (even though the work on the exam paper had at most a superficial resemblance to the correct method) or else she challenged me as to whether anyone got full credit on that particular question (the hardest question on the exam) (yes, about 1/4 of the class got it completely correct).

I told her that she could still get a B+ in the course. She scoffed, "I don't get Bs; I make As."

She told me that her mom was on her case, that she'd have to leave this school and go somewhere closer to home if she didn't get good grades. She's getting a C in one of her other classes, and she swore that she'd get As in all the rest of her classes to make up for it.

She's taking a full load of courses, has joined a sorority, and works as a waitress to pay for the sorority.

Since October she has been frequently absent. When she has been in class, she has slept most of the class-period, clutching a can of Red Bull.

And as she cried in my office, it was entirely clear to me why her grade in my class was not the grade that she wants. But there wasn't really anything that I could say that would make a difference as she sat there crying.